You Pick em - Tiger Phil or Vijay

By George WhiteAugust 23, 2005, 4:00 pm
So what we have here is three very good players who have won tournaments a total of 13 times this season. Which one is the best, according to the public perception, is predicated on who happened to win last.
This week that happens to be Tiger Woods. It could have been Phil Mickelson, of course, or Vijay Singh. Ill give you my first choice right here at the top ' Woods. But you see what I mean ' he won just last week, so the exploits of Tiger are firmly in the minds eye. Going back over the course of this season, though, he has been more consistent than the other two. And since he missed the cut back at the EDS Byron Nelson back in May, he hasnt finished worse than fourth in seven outings.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has regained his spot on top of the list of golf's elite.
There has never been a player in the history of the game who has been a better grinder than Tiger. Those of you who peek into this corner regularly know how I feel about this year versus Woods 2000 ' that year and Byron Nelsons 18-win year of 1945 are the two greatest seasons in history, in one mans opinion.
But let me say this ' the man is unbelievable when it comes down to making his strokes count to the ultimate. His putting is off sometimes, his driving is off sometimes, at times he doesnt hit his irons close to the pins ' but he is always, always in it the mix. He gets the maximum amount of pop out of every tournament. He, more than any golfer I can think of, has avoided more cuts with a birdie on the 18th hole. Like they used to say of Nicklaus, when he plays well, he wins easily. When he just plays so-so, he still wins more than his share. And when he plays poorly (for him), he still has a chance to win.
Woods has won five times this year. Tiger showed why he is a great grinder at his first victory this year, the Buick Invitational. He certainly didnt play exceptionally well the final 18 holes, in fact he hit a terrible iron shot at 18. Remember when he fanned the iron that just happened to squirt off way to the right? But he still won by three. Tiger just refused to let anyone near him.
At Doral, he defeated Mickelson in another battle of old-fashioned intestinal fortitude? He defeated Chris DiMarco in a Masters playoff when he was limping at the end ' but still clung to the green jacket like a nasty pit bull. He won the British Open when he was hitting on all cylinders. And he won Sunday when ' again ' he gritted his teeth and just willed the victory to come to him.
Singh, IMHO, is No. 2 here. Singh defeated Ernie Els in the second tournament of the year ' the Sony Open. He won playoffs in Houston over John Daly and at Wachovia over Sergio Garcia and Jim Furyk. And he won at the Buick Open when he had to overcome a hard-charging Woods, among others.
Mickelson is in my No. 3 spot, simply because he hasnt been as consistent as Woods or Singh. He won at Phoenix and Pebble Beach, beat Arjun Atwal, Rich Beem, Jose Maria Olazabal and Brandt Jobe in a marathon at the BellSouth, and then broke out of a clutch of players to win the PGA with a brilliant pitch at the final hole.
To say that Mickelson has not had as excellent a season as Tiger and Vijay is certainly not to say that he has had a poor season. It just hasnt been as great a year as the other two.
Woods has been incredibly consistent in the 17 events he has played. Five wins, three seconds and two thirds, 11 times in the top 10. And, he is the leading money winner.
Singh, as usual, has been the workhorse of the three. Hes played in 24 events, and finished in the top 25 an impressive 21 times. He has four wins, two seconds and three thirds.
Mickelson has also won four times, that in 18 tournaments. But its either been a W or nothing, it seems. He had the second-place finish to Woods at Doral, but his next-highest non-winning finish is a T7 at Wachovia.
Dont read this to mean he hasnt played spectacular golf in streaks this year, though. He had a 60 in Phoenix, a 62 in the first round at Spyglass - the hardlest course in the Pebble Beach rotation - and 64s at the Bob Hope and Doral. Hes trying to learn a little strategy and a little different short game from Rick Smith and Dave Pelz. At 35, he has changed much of his game since he was in his 20s. And in his 20s he was still good enough to win 13 times.
There are still 12 tournaments remaining in this year, and you want to bet that the win totals of these three doesnt bulge even further? They have been the three bright spots in an unusually bright year. Players from around the world have emulated Singh and won in the U.S. But Woods, Singh and Mickelson have been something special. Theyre the top of the pyramid, and then you have the pyramid.
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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”